Wrexham 5 - 0 Stevenage Borough

Last updated : 15 August 2008 By Dylan Gallacher

One game, five goals. It's enough to start to banish the memories of last season's dismal campaign.

But Dragons fans - together with boss Brian Little - will have to take this 5-0 thrashing with a pinch of salt.

Sorry to sound downbeat, but the new-look side struggled against an impressive Stevenage outfit for long periods.

And never mind the quality of the football, it may be the quality of the refereeing that will have Dragons fans worrying most this term.

It all went for them yesterday as the 60th minute sending off of Stevenage striker Steve Morrison gave the Dragons a decisive advantage which they never looked back from.

It was the culmination of some bizarre decisions by Nottinghamshire referee David Coote, and if this is the quality they have to look forward to, in the next match the Dragons may not be so lucky.

Every time a player fell to the floor it was a free-kick, and some of the offside decisions were quite frankly baffling.

He booked Darran Kempson for clearing the ball in the first half but by far the strangest decision was to send off Morrison for tangling with the big defender in the second period to hand the Dragons a massive advantage.

They were already in front from Kearney's deflected free-kick and further goals from Shaun Whalley and Jefferson Louis followed, before Coote evened things up by dismissing Levi Mackin for no more than a forceful tackle.

By that time everything was going boss Brian Little's way, even his two subs - Christian Smith and Marc Williams - scored.

There were six new signings in the line-up, with new captain Kearney starting in midfield. But it was a case of same old for the Dragons, who struggled to piece moves together and relied on long balls up front to Louis in the first period.

It seemed like this would change when Whalley was taken down by Mark Albrighton just outside the box on 17 minutes and Kearney's free-kick cannoned off the wall to trickle past Ashley Bayes.

It was the little bit of luck that Wrexham so badly needed last season, but the simple truth was that Stevenage looked brighter in possession than the Dragons.

They created seven good chances in the first period and had the home side clinging on.

But Brian Little's half-time team-talk appeared to wake them up and Whalley in particular recovered from a poor first half to run the show in the second.

He had already hit the bar with a great curving effort before the real controversy on the hour when Morrison clashed with Kempson.

It seemed that they both fought for the ball and collapsed on the floor, but only the Stevenage striker saw a straight red.

It was a lucky break that Wrexham took full advantage of and after Whalley's shot deflected for a corner, Louis enjoyed a little extra space to head home Kearney's corner past the despairing Bayes.

The drama didn't stop there.

A minute after Ward's brilliant one-handed save from sub Lee Boylan, Mackin followed through on Ronnie Henry and referee Coote had to even things out and show him a second yellow.

But any revival was killed off on 71 minutes as the excellent Kearney put through Whalley who finished with aplomb over Bayes.

A defensive slip nearly let in Louis for his second as Borough threatened to implode, before the big striker brought another good save from Baynes with a close-range header.

But Wrexham weren't to be denied, and sub Smith wrapped up the win with minutes left, nodding home a corner from - you guessed it - Kearney.

And the misery was complete after another defensive howler let in sub Williams to touch it around a shell-shocked Bayes and slip the ball into the net. There was even time for Williams to head just wide in the final moments. But that really would have been more than they deserved.

SCORERS: Kearney 18, Louis 66, Whalley 71, Smith 80, M Williams 87

WREXHAM (4-4-2): Ward, Spender, N Brown, Kempson (Evans 75), Tremarco, S Brown, Mackin, Kearney, Aiston, Louis (M Williams 83), Whalley, (Smith 72). Subs: A Williams, Baynes.

BOOKED: Mackin, Kempson, Louis

SENT OFF: Mackin

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